Retiring to Adventure

by Bethany Wagner '14

As the graduating class of 2014 moves toward a future filled with promise, Azusa Pacific art professor Tom Dunn embarks on his own adventure. This June, he and his wife, Jan, will fulfill a longtime dream, becoming full-time missionaries. “I don't equate retirement with less purpose,” he said. “Retirement is not a time for us to invest in ourselves; instead, we look forward to the full freedom retirement provides to invest in others.”

In preparation for the journey ahead, the Dunns sold or gave away nearly all of their possessions, including their house and car. “It's not going to be an easy life, living out of suitcases,” said Dunn. “But we realized that we don't need as much as we think. Jesus tells the disciples to not depend on things. Ultimately, God provides.” Many of the places where the Dunns will serve have poor or limited living standards and medical services. “We will trust God with literally everything—finances, health, travel, safety. Our security lies in Him.”

Dunn experienced the value of living simply and taking risks while teaching at APU's High Sierra Semester program. In that setting, faculty members and about 40 students live near Yosemite National Park where they study the humanities, spend time outdoors, and build a close community.

Joining High Sierra during the program's early years, Dunn taught aesthetics classes, developed a ceramics course, led backpacking trips, and discipled students. “Spending time in the wilderness backpacking and rock climbing in the High Sierras fostered a willingness to take risks and renewed my drive to create art.”

“We will trust God with literally everything–finances, health, travel, safety. Our security lies in Him.”

After eight-and-a-half years at High Sierra, Dunn came to APU's main Azusa campus as a ceramics professor, continuing to teach and impact students for another three years. He connected personally with the students in his classes, encouraging them in their artistic pursuits and faith. In addition, every Friday morning for five semesters, the Dunns welcomed students into their home with a hot breakfast and space for fellowship. “Tom brims with wisdom, stories, and faith, and always encourages students to pursue high goals,” said Kylynn Richey '14, who studied art with Dunn for several years.

“We love to speak into students' lives and learn from them as well,” said Dunn. “Eager and unafraid, college students embrace new life adventures.”

"My time here encouraged me to think outside the arena of the ordinary. I leave ready for a new exciting adventure of serving the Lord.”

This June, after they pack and say their goodbyes, the Dunns will board a one-way flight toward this next chapter. Partnering with Wycliffe Bible Translators, the couple will support a global initiative to make the Bible accessible in all languages and cultures, also focusing on community, literacy, and church development. First traveling through Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and Mexico, they will spend three months at each Wycliffe base, providing pastoral care for the translators and missionaries.

The Dunns also plan to work with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), another international organization with 1,200 bases across the globe. “Where do they need us?” asked Dunn. “Construction? Maintenance? Leading Bible studies? We will encourage and minister to the full-time YWAM staff in whatever ways we can.”

A professional artist for 10 years and a pastor for 20 years before coming to APU, Dunn experienced firsthand a life of trusting God. “Art takes risk. Ministry takes risk. This next step toward trusting God makes total sense.”

Dunn regards his 11 years at APU as a time of preparation for this leap of faith. “I am thankful for the university, High Sierra, fellow faculty members, and students. My time here encouraged me to think outside the arena of the ordinary. I leave ready for a new exciting adventure of serving the Lord.”